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Race-based relocations inevitable under new EE codes

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

A year ago Solidarity, in the midst of its affirmative action court case against the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), warned that government’s approach to affirmative action had degenerated into a destructive social engineering programme. Now, in the run-up to Solidarity’s landmark Constitutional Court case on behalf of Lt-Col Renate Barnard against the South African Police Service (SAPS), Solidarity’s warning has clearly been vindicated with the release of the draft employment equity codes.

Last year, Solidarity indicated that the rigid enforcement of national racial demographics would leave regionally “overrepresented” people no choice but to relocate to other regions where they are “underrepresented.”

According to Piet le Roux, senior researcher at the Solidarity Research Institute (SRI), the government’s affirmative action approach has become fixated on forcing all designated employers to use the national racial demographics as the one and only measure of employment equity’s success. ‘Under the codes, employers employing 150 or more people will be required to reflect national racial demographics at top, senior and middle management levels. At other levels, the average of national and provincial racial demographics has to be used. Employers with fewer than 150 employees face similar, though marginally less onerous, requirements.’

Le Roux highlights the absurd implications of such a policy: ‘Should national racial demographics be rigidly applied to the Western Cape, there would be nearly 1,2 million economically active coloured people too many in the province. This constitutes more than half of the entire economically active coloured population of South Africa. For them to obtain work, they will have to relocate to other provinces – not taking up new jobs there, but displacing existing employees in that province. Disruptions of a similar scope await people who happen to be classified white and Indian, and even black African people in provinces where they exceed the levels the minister of labour deems tolerable. The Government’s affirmative action policy has developed into a mathematical approach, replacing people with numbers. This has nothing to do with redress and everything to do with race,’ says Le Roux.

Majoritarianism

Solidarity is also opposed to the codes’ stipulations that employers need only consult on employment equity matters with majority unions or representatives of the majority of employees. This is in conflict with the Employment Equity Act itself, which stipulates that the interests of both designated and non-designated employees at all occupational levels must be represented in consultations on employment equity. The proposed codes will make the representation of minority and non-designated employees virtually impossible.

Speaking up

According to Le Roux, South Africans, especially major businesses, too readily accept that government’s way is the only way. ‘What we in South Africa need is a real commitment to develop new ideas on affirmative action. We appeal to academics, trade unionists, church and community leaders, and especially major employers in the business world to think critically about government’s affirmative action programme and to seek viable alternatives. It is important that many people speak out on this issue.’

Click here to view the official press release.

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